I just got a certificate of Chinese language ability that should let me fulfill the department’s language requirements. To be honest, I haven’t spoken serious Chinese for three years so it was embarrassing to claim that “my Chinese is good” in my very rusty spoken Chinese, but anyways the instructor agreed with me that it would be better-off for me to review Chinese in Taiwan when I do dissertation research than taking classes while I am in the US. Phew! But our little conversation convinced me that I really need to study Chinese again.

I like studying languages and I would not mind taking Chinese classes at all if I weren’t taking many seminars right now. I am taking Mark Mazower’s class on comparative empires, in which I am learning a lot of new things (or in other words, I feel like an idiot for knowing very little about European empires), Chatterjee’s class on Hegemony and Power (meaning Gramsci and Foucault), Kim Brandt’s seminar on modern Japan’s consumerism, and then Japanese bibliography class, which is more like a series of workshops. I feel a little guilty for not taking any class on Korea this semester but I am really happy taking Chatterjee’s class instead. Finally someone is teaching me Gramsci (look at the shameless title of this blog!).

There is a new master’s program in International Global History in my university, starting this semester. I have talked to a few students in the program. They need to take 30 credits of classes in the first year here, and then spend another year at LSE in London. 30 credits of classes (languages don’t count) are A LOT of classes! It is not easy for them to get into very popular seminars since PhD students get a priority over them. It sounded like a very tough student life.

One of the IGH master’s students asked me how I am finding a balance between regional focus and comparative/global focus in deciding which classes to take. It is actually a big problem for me. With a broad regional speciality and broad thematic interests, I am everywhere. I think I will have to pay the price when I prepare for my oral exams for not focusing on a narrow area of study. The whole IGH field is experimental anyways, so we will see how I will turn out as a product of the program.

Category(s): Languages, My Grad School Life

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